During a ski crossing through the Rocky Mountains, my Canadian friend Jon Walsh, an ice climber and photographer, discovers this wild canyon. After showing me his pictures, we decide together with Audrey Gariepy, Jennifer Olson and Caroline George to head for this region to explore the area. The canyon is isolated and, due to the danger of avalanches in winter it’s almost unreachable. We buy so much food in Golden, it heats up the credit card. This is mainly due to the fact that we’ll be flying there by helicopter. Because of the precarious avalanche situation, we cannot travel there on our own – it’s too risky.
Four girls and a photographer in the wilderness! Cut off from the outside world. At nighttime, we are kept awake from the howling of the wolves. We are expecting up to 600 meter long unspoiled ice paths and mixed routes. The access paths are comparatively simple. The conditions are very good: an overcast sky, occasional snow fall, ideal temperatures slightly below freezing point. We are able to take advantage of the daylight.
Audrey and I form a team of two. Caroline and Jen do the same. None of the days go to waste. We manage a total of ten first ascents in ten days, including the „Northwest Passage" (WI 5, 600 meters), „Scrambled Pancakes" (M7/WI 6, 600 meters) and „Happy Hours" (WI 6, 300 meters) with a terrific deep view. In the evenings, we get closer together in our kitchen tent, cooking and chatting with each other. We feel satisfied with what we have achieved so far.
However, one route that came to my attention just won’t leave my mind. A huge cave high up one of the faces with a fine formation of ice above it.
Even though we are exhausted from the adventures over the last few days, I get a new lease of life when seeing the gigantic cave.
Into the Wild, M12
I have two whole days left at my disposal and I just simply have to try this route again. It is gigantic. Starting at the entrance, I follow a logical path up to the opening of the cave. In the back of the cave I started climbing a crack system, that leads me to the lip. I am „armed“ with a drill and hammer. We have to be quick. The clock is ticking.
Jen proves how patient she is being my belay partner. The technical first ascent and drilling in on the route takes several hours and absorbs my power reserve completely. Tomorrow I want to succeed in getting through the route. At this point, I am physically and mentally finished.
Yet I know that my will and determination can move mountains. At 5pm, I climb with Jon Walsh at twilight on our last legs. Nobody falls. Pink point. It is fantastic. I call this route „Into the Wild“ and rate it with M12. To this day, it’s still waiting for a repeat performance. On the following day at 8am, the helicopter picks us up. At the eleventh hour, we are heading home with a huge achievement. It is done.
Backcountry ice cream recipe:
1 litre (!) of Baileys, 1 litre of cream, additionally stir with lots of fresh powder snow, then let it freeze and that’s it! Only possible with Canadian powder snow, due to being wonderfully dry and fluffy.